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Monday, February 27, 2017
Notes on the Conclave
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¬†The Conclave to elect the new Pope begins on Monday. The following notes give some information on its history, structure and procedures. Background Since 1059, the election of the Pope has been reserved to the cardinals alone and this is their principal function - this is the first thing said about them in the Church's Code of Canon Law. The cardinals were originally advisors to the Pope. By the 12th century, the cardinals consisted of seven bishops of dioceses round Rome, 28 priests from Roman churches and 20 deacons. Cardinals are still ranked as cardinal bishops, cardinal priests and cardinal deacons; even though (since 1962) they are all now required to be bishops before they are made cardinal. Cardinals are major administrators of Church affairs, serving in one or more departments of the Roman Curia. Cardinals in charge of agencies of the Roman Curia and Vatican City are asked to submit their resignation from office to the Pope on reaching the age of 75. A cardinal's title, while symbolic of high honour, does not signify any extension of the powers of holy orders. Cardinals are not an "order" in the Church like bishops or priests and so they are not ordained as cardinals, simply appointed by the Pope, and make up the College of Cardinals. The creation of new cardinals ensures that there is a sufficient number eligible to vote (i.e. under the age of 80) up to a maximum of 120. The 120, from all parts of the world and from very different cultures, are considered sufficiently expressive of the universality of the Church to make up the maximum number of electors and represent the Catholic community worldwide. The proviso that those Cardinals who celebrate their eightieth birthday before the day when the Apostolic See becomes vacant do not take part in the election is explained in Universi Dominici Gregis, which states that the reason 'is the desire not to add to the weight of such venerable age the further burden of responsibility for choosing the one who will have to lead Christ's flock in ways adapted to the needs of the times.' Why Cardinals? In the early church, it was the custom and rite of the people and clergy of Rome to elect the Bishop of Rome. Over time, this was refined to the clergy, and further reduced to be just the parish priests of Rome . Whenever a Cardinal is created, he is appointed as parish priest of a parish in Rome ≠ his Titular Church ≠ and so the tradition continues! Why "Conclave"? In 1271 the process to elect a Pope had already lasted over two years and nine months. The cardinals had gathered in the Great Hall of the Papal Palace in the city of Viterbo, but the people, tired of waiting, eventually locked them in "with a key" ≠ "cum calve", and would not let them out until they had elected a Pope. The idea of Conclave had its desired effect to speed up matters with the election of Pope Gregory X. The powers of the College of Cardinals during the vacancy of the Apostolic See During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, laws issued by the Roman Pontiffs can in no way be corrected or modified. All heads of departments (including the Secretary of State and Prefects of Congregations) cease to exercise their office and the day-to-day running of the church is done by the College of Cardinals, called together by the Dean, Cardinal Gantin. The routine business of departments is looked after by their Secretaries. Important decisions are taken by the College of Cardinals, but they have no power to take decisions that would normally be left to the Pope himself. One of the most important priorities is preparation for the election of the new Pope. The Conclave The institution of the Conclave is the mechanism by which a new pope is elected. While not strictly necessary by nature, theologically or canonically, it has been confirmed by the 1996 document as still appropriate. The word itself comes from the Latin cum clave (literally "with a key") and meant that the cardinals were locked in the Apostolic Palace until they produced a result. Under the 1996 regulations, the cardinals are to be housed in a new building inside the Vatican's walls called the Domus Sanctae Marthae (St Martha's House) and move from there to the Papal Palace and the Sistine Chapel for the actual voting process. While they are moving to and from their new accommodation, they are forbidden to communicate with anyone not involved in the election. During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, the Cardinals are to wear the usual black cassock with piping and the red sash, with skull-cap, pectoral cross and ring. Others admitted to St Martha's House for the duration of the Conclave and sworn to secrecy include: 1. The secretary of the College of Cardinals who acts as the secretary of the conclave, 2. Papal master of ceremonies along with two masters of ceremonies and two religious attached to the papal sacristy, 3. An ecclesiastic chosen to assist the cardinal dean or the cardinal taking his place, 4. Confessors 5. Two medical doctors, 6. Cooks and housekeepers. At a suitable point, two ecclesiastics known for their sound doctrine, wisdom and moral authority have the task of presenting to the cardinals two well-prepared meditations on the problems facing the Church at the time and on the need for careful discernment in choosing the new Pope. The election After the death of the Pontiff, the cardinal electors who are present, must wait for 15 days for those who are absent; the College of Cardinals has the power, however, to delay entry into the conclave for twenty days; after that the cardinal electors who are present must enter the Conclave and proceed with the election. Nevertheless, cardinal electors, if they arrive [before the pope is elected] would be admitted to the Conclave. In addition to the cardinal electors, the following should enter into the Conclave: 1. The secretary of the Sacred College of Cardinals who performs the functions of secretary of the Conclave, 2. The Vicar General of the Roman Pontiff for Vatican City, 3. Sacristans, 4. Master of Pontifical Ceremonies, 5. Confessors, 6. Two doctors: a surgeon and an internist, 7. Architect of the Conclave, 8. Two expert technicians. The afternoon of the first day of the process, the cardinals process to the Sistine Chapel, where voting has traditionally taken place beneath Michelangelo's fresco of the Last Judgment. The revised rules make no mention of the tradition of the white smoke that signals the end of voting and a new Pope. During the Conclave which elected John XXIII Vatican Radio mistakenly informed the world one day early that a Pope had been elected. At the Conclave which elected Paul VI, to avoid confusion concerning the colour of the smoke, electronic signals were installed, marked white and black, to inform Vatican Radio. Traditionally, there were three methods of choosing the new Pope. The first was by acclamation, when all the cardinals agreed to one name proposed, without prior arrangement. This, however, appears never to have happened. The second was by compromise, when a stalemate was resolved in one of three ways: * A simple majority plus one, * A ballot between the two strongest candidates, * Delegating the election to a small group of between nine and 15 cardinals. Now there is only one method, a simple two-thirds majority (or two thirds plus one if the number is not exactly divisible). [N.B. See the section 'Resolving deadlock' below] The ballots Voting begins on the first day, when one ballot is held in the afternoon if possible. If the first ballot does not produce a result, there are two ballots each morning and each afternoon until a result is declared. The Papal Master of Ceremonies hands out voting papers, giving at least two or three to each cardinal. Nine cardinals are chosen by lot for three tasks: three are to be scrutineers, three are to collect the votes of those who are sick and unable to be in the Sistine Chapel but who are nonetheless able to vote, and three are to double-check the counting. The ballot paper is divided in two: the top half carries the Latin words Eligo in Summum Pontificem (I elect as pope...) and the bottom half is blank for the name to be written in. The handwriting on the bottom part should not be identifiable as belonging to any cardinal, and the inclusion of a second name will render the ballot null and void. The Master of Ceremonies and others leave, the doors of the Sistine Chapel are closed and the vote begins. In order of precedence, each cardinal elector holds up his completed ballot paper. He then carries it to the altar and places it in a receptacle. He swears his vote is for his choice and puts the paper onto a plate, which he uses then to drop the voting slip into the receptacle on the altar. When all votes have been placed in the urn (including the votes of any sick cardinals whose votes have been collected from the Domus Sanctae Marthae), the urn is shaken. A scrutineer takes the votes out one by one, in full view, and puts them into another container, making sure that the number of slips corresponds to the number of voters. If not, the ballot is void. The scrutineers sit at a table in front of the altar. The first scrutineer unfolds each paper, notes the name and passes it to the second, who does the same. The third then reads out the name that has been written down and the electors can make note of the names and votes. The scrutineers write down the number of votes received by each name and the last scrutineer collects the voting slips by threading a needle through the word Eligo and collecting the slips on a thread which is then knotted. (The slips are burned at the end of the session, together with any notes the electors have made.) The names are counted and if a name has received two-thirds of the votes, the Pope has been elected. The counting is checked by the third group of three cardinals (the 'revisers') who examine both the original voting slips and the scrutineers' notes. The Chamberlain records the votes in each ballot on one sheet of paper and, after the election, this is given to the new Pope before it is stored in a confidential archive. If the first ballot does not produce a result, the process is repeated for three days only. After three days of unsuccessful voting, the procedure is suspended for a day to give time for prayer, reflection and informal discussions. The voting then begins again for a series of seven more ballots. If there is still no conclusion, another pause is taken before a further seven ballots. If this still does not produce a result, one more pause and another series of seven ballots follow. Finally, however, the cardinals are addressed by the Chamberlain about what to do next. Resolving deadlock The election goes forward in the way that the majority of electors decide. A result can now come from an absolute majority or by a vote on the two names that received the largest number of votes in the last ballot. Here, too, an absolute majority is required. Observance of secrecy Even though they are no longer locked in, the process is still referred to as a "Conclave" and the process is made as private and secret as possible, even to the extent of ensuring that an electronic sweep is done in the chapel to detect any 'bugs' planted. The cardinals take an oath promising secrecy and the order is given, Extra omnes ("all outside"). The oath of secrecy forbids them to communicate with anyone not involved in the election, or even to disclose details of the votes when the election is over. It is the duty of the Cardinal Camerlengo and three nominated Cardinal Assistants to ensure that absolutely no violation of secrecy before, as well as during and after the voting. Anyone found to have broken this obligation will be subject to "grave penalties" according to the judgment of the future Pope, not excluding excommunication. During the whole election process, the cardinal electors must avoid all written and verbal communication with anyone not admitted to the areas set aside for the Conclave, except in extreme emergencies. In addition, the cardinals cannot receive or send messages of any kind outside Vatican City and no one legitimately present in Vatican City can deliver such messages. The cardinal electors are specifically prohibited, for the entire duration of the election, to receive newspapers or periodicals of any sort, to listen to the radio or to watch television. All cardinals present whether or not eligible to vote, cannot reveal directly or indirectly information about the voting and about matters discussed or ecided concerning the election of the Pope in the meetings of Cardinals, both before and during the time of the election. This obligation of secrecy also applies to the cardinals who are not electors but who take part in the General Congregations, which take up the day-to-day running of Church governance during the vacancy of the Holy See. Even after the election of the new Pope, no information about the proceedings can be divulged without express permission from the Pope himself. Any person found to have accepted or offered bribes, or made pacts, agreements, or promises to influence results will be automatically excommunication. The 1996 document also exhorts electors to avoid being influenced by 'friendship or aversion'. The new Pope If the person elected is not already a bishop, he shall immediately be ordained bishop. The successful candidate is then asked by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, "Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?" When he gives his agreement (which he can refuse) he is then asked what name he will choose as Pope. This agreement and choice is then signed and (assuming that the person is already a bishop) he immediately becomes Bishop of Rome. The cardinals pay him their respects and the Cardinal Deacon announces the result of the election to the people in St. Peter's Square: Nuntio Vobis Gaudium Magnum I announce a Great Joy to You All Habemus Papam... We have a Pope.... The new Pope comes out and gives them his blessing. There is no longer a coronation ceremony, but the pontificate is inaugurated at a ceremony in St Peter's a short time afterwards - in the case of Pope John Paul II it was six days later. For further reading see Pope John Paul II's full document on the election of a Pope: Universi Dominici Gregis, (paste fhe following url into your browser): Source: CCS/VIS
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